Second seeds clinch ninth tour-level crown

Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury suffered championship match heartbreak at the Nitto ATP Finals last season. One year on, the second seeds produced an impressive performance Sunday to ensure they would not fall at the final hurdle again, defeating Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic to become undefeated champions in Turin.

In a high-quality final, the American-British tandem was sharp from the first to the last point, overcoming the Croatians 7-6(4), 6-4 to end their season in style in northern Italy.

Salisbury is the first Briton to win the Nitto ATP Finals doubles title, while Ram is the 18th American to clinch the crown. The pair has earned 1,500 Pepperstone ATP Doubles Rankings points and $930,300 as undefeated champions, the biggest doubles payday in history.

“That’s probably up there with one of our best matches, one of our best matches as a team," Salisbury said. "I think we’re so proud of everything we’ve done this week. We’ve come through some tough situations, but we’ve stuck together the whole way. [I’m] so happy, I can’t believe we’ve achieved this.”

“I don’t know what to say," Ram said. "My partner played out of this world today, but I guess that’s what you’ve got to do and that’s why he’s one of the best around. He saves his best for the biggest moments. I’m so proud of us a team for sure.”

Ram and Salisbury, who lost against Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut in last year’s final, have now captured nine tour-level titles as a team. In a standout season, the pair lifted ATP Masters 1000 crowns in Monte Carlo and Cincinnati, while they lifted their third Grand Slam trophy at the US Open, holding a 37-14 record on the year.

With their 85-minute victory, Ram and Salisbury have improved to 3-4 in their ATP Head2Head series against Mektic and Pavic, having also defeated the fourth seeds in the semi-finals in Turin last year.

Both teams were strong on serve in the first set, with limited opportunities offered up on return as the opener moved to a tie-break. Ram and Salisbury, who saved the only break point of the set at 1-1, increased their depth on return in the tie-break and remained solid overhead, dispatching volleys and smashes to move ahead.

The second seeds then struck immediately at the start of the second set to gain further control, profiting from two double faults from Pavic to break. From there, Ram and Salisbury raced through their service games, winning 84 per cent (16/19) of points behind their first delivery to seal an emotional victory.

“I didn’t think about that too much," Salisbury said on becoming first British champion at the season finale. "Obviously, that’s a nice thing to achieve, but it was mainly about us a team, the pair of us and everyone that supports us. We’ve got so many people behind us. It’s just a massive team effort and we are just so happy with everything we’ve done this week.”

Ram is the 18th American to win the doubles title at the year-end event, joining Stan Smith, Arthur Ashe, John McEnroe, Peter Fleming, Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan.

“It’s certainly pretty cool," Ram said when asked about joining the list of American champions. "There’s been so many great American doubles players and so many great players that have won this. It’s an honour to be on that trophy with them for sure.”

Mektic and Pavic were seeking their sixth tour-level title of the year this week in Turin. They triumphed together at an ATP Masters 1000 event in Rome, while they also lifted trophies in Geneva, at The Queen’s Club in London, in Eastbourne and Astana.

Mektic was aiming to win his second Nitto ATP Finals crown, having triumphed with Wesley Koolhof in 2020.

"Congratulations to Rajeev and Joe," Mektic said during the trophy ceremony. "You were really good today. Congratulations and enjoy your moment. I want to also thank Mate and our whole box, we had a great week."